Alumni's notorious spirit thrives today
By BRIDGET MAHONEY
Editor's note: Scene will feature the dorms of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's throughout the fall and spring semesters. Anyone interested in writing a feature of a dorm should e-mail Scene at Scene@nd.edu.
OK, for all the full-bred Domers out there, it's trivia time: Who was the Notre Dame mascot for 35 years before the Leprechaun got the job in 1965?
The correct answer is the Irish terrier, and he currently lives in the Dawghouse — of Alumni Hall, that is. Does that make it the best dorm on campus, the center of the universe? Of course, the Dawgs will holler until the day co-ed dorms come to Notre Dame. Although their fierce rival, Dillon Hall, as well as most dorms, probably beg to differ, it's worth a look at what makes Alumni Hall the dorm it is today.
At the end of Notre Dame Avenue stands Alumni Hall and the Law School, two four-story towers marking the entrance to the University. In a collegiate Gothic architectural style, gargoyles and reliefs of Irish terriers, Knute Rockne, Joe College, Madonna and Child, St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas adorn the outer walls of Alumni. Some believe a ghost inhabits the gargoyle tower.
The year 1931 marks the birth of both Alumni and Dillon, thus sparking a competitive rivalry. Naturally, pranks have been a popular tactic on both sides. In one instance, a couple of Dawgs unraveled a hose in the halls of Dillon and sprayed its residents. Sign-stealing has also been a common prank.
"We've had a lot of dorm spirit in the past years," said Matt Griffith, Alumni Hall co-president. "But the rivalries haven't been as competitive lately, and we're hoping to bring that back this year." Griffith said this will be done possibly by reviving the Alumni-Dillon Olympics.
Alumni's competitive spirit does not stop there, though, as the crowded trophy case indicates a recent tradition of success in interhall sports. The dorm boasts winning the championship in hockey and soccer last year, basketball the past two years (after 45 years without the title) and the Fisher Hall Regatta the past three.
The Dawgs especially pride themselves on their fraternal atmosphere, and a banner bearing their Greek letters — delta, omega, gamma — is brought out for special occasions. "The best thing is how much it's like a fraternity," said Don Pierce, Alumni's other co-president. "It's a really great group of guys. The older guys took care of me when I was a freshman and so on."
The upperclassmen emphasize freshman orientation and strive to make their new arrivals feel at home. Although the freshmen live together on the first and second floors and consequently get to know each other well, that does not stop them from befriending upperclassmen. In addition, Alumni's rector, Father George Rozum, receives pictures of the incoming freshmen over the summer and learns their names and faces so he can greet them personally upon arrival.
"He's a big part of the hall. Anyone who lives in Alumni knows about Father George," Pierce added. "He's been there since 1978."
Like Notre Dame in general, a strong sense of tradition characterizes this historic dorm. Residents may not have air conditioning and the spacious luxuries of newer dorms, but Pierce explained, "there's something to tradition ... I had an older guy come by and knock on the door to see his old room to show his kid around."
The chapel is another aspect of the hall's history as most of the stained glass windows were donated by past classes, intending to immortalize their time as Alumni Dawgs. Although modern changes have been made along the way, their spirit remains.
At Sunday night Mass, that spirit persists as "the world's most dangerous Mass choir and band" provides the music. Almost an orchestra, instruments range from guitars to a flute to an Egyptian drum, and two pews of singers enliven the Mass.
The last Mass of the year, dedicated to the graduating seniors, is especially unforgettable because Father George roasts the seniors in his homily. Over the years, he collects little, humorous — sometimes embarrassing — stories to share with the students.
"There was one who dated three women for the Wake and got away with it until the roast," Father George added with a laugh.
Of course, no one can ignore Alumni's most widely known tradition, the Wake, though it's "shrouded in mystery." Started in 1981, the custom parodies an Irish wake as students, wearing only boxers and ties, process across campus carrying a used steel casket and singing loudly, often through the South Bend elements of rain and snow.
The Wake Dance elaborates on this theme as each section wakes a different dead person and decorates appropriately. Such celebrated figures of past Wakes include Bridget Maguire's, Chris Farley and Bernie from "Weekend at Bernie's." At the stroke of midnight, all the Dawgs and their dates gather down in the stuffy basement for the casket, containing Father George, to be brought in.
"The first time I went in," said Father George, "I was a little queasy. I was shut in and there are no latches inside.
"It's comfortable, however. It's got a nice little mattress and pillow," he added upon reflection.
Alumni men also enjoy strutting their stuff across campus by continuing the informal tradition of the "Bun Run." For those trapped in the library during finals week, they are subject to the sight of masked Dawgs taking a break from all the studying and stress by streaking. Warning: witnesses see a completely different side of Alumni Hall.
It's nothing too bad, though. Just proof of their laid-back nature. According to Pierce, "The guys in Alumni are good guys. All-around, they like to have fun and are good students."
All Scene Stories for Wednesday, November 3, 1999